8 Tips for Budgeting for a Home Renovation

Whether you plan to renovate a house before moving in or are preparing to remodel your current abode, we know budgeting for a home renovation can be a tough process. First, you’ll need to determine what it is you really need versus what you simply want. Next, you’ll have to figure out how you’re going to finance the renovation in the first place. Once you have a general idea of how much money you have to spend on renovations (and where that money is coming from), you should be able to make better decisions on finishes, appliances and other renovation features.

Remember: most renovations end up costing more than originally thought, so be sure to have a money cushion set aside in case of emergencies. This is especially true if you plan to tear down walls and make structural changes, as these projects often end up with unwelcome surprises (think: water damage, mold or electrical and wiring issues). Many homeowners may also be concerned with ways to cut costs and save money without compromising the quality of the home. For tips on budgeting for a home renovation, check out our expert advice below.

8 tips for budgeting for a home renovation

  1. Decide on your top renovation needs and priorities

    The reason for renovating your home probably has something to do with a need that isn’t being met by your current living situation. Perhaps it’s a need for more space or perhaps it’s a need for an updated bathroom. Whatever the reason (or reasons) for renovating, be sure to write down and prioritize all of your remodeling goals. For instance, a larger kitchen island may be at the top of your priority list, whereas updated appliances may be lower down on the list of needs. Keep your goals in mind and avoid getting side-tracked with smaller projects that can wait for later.

  2. Look at cost vs. value for each renovation project

    Planning to sell your home in the future? Keep the return on investment top of mind when choosing home renovation projects. After all, there’s no reason to pour $40K into a kitchen, if the home isn’t going to sell for more than you originally paid. Once you’ve prioritized your home renovation needs, research each project’s cost vs. value using Remodeling Magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value report. The report includes the cost of common remodeling projects and compares them to that project’s resale value. This should give you an idea about which projects are worth the money and which projects aren’t. For instance, the 6 most valuable home improvement projects of 2018 included an upscale garage door replacement, manufactured stone veneer, the kitchen, siding and vinyl window replacements and a bathroom remodel.

  3. Figure out how you’re going to finance the renovation

    Now for the hard part: figuring out how exactly you’re going to finance this renovation. First, take a look at your current finances. Do you have enough cash to cover the renovation? If so, great. If not, you’ll need to borrow money for the project. Unless you have a fairy godmother willing to loan you cash, we recommend either using a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC), where homeowners can borrow money against their home. Many homeowners also use credit cards to finance their renovation projects. This may be a good idea – assuming you have a plan to pay these credit cards off. If you have strong credit, you may also be able to obtain a loan through SoFi, an online personal finance company providing personal loans and mortgages to high income individuals.

  4. Talk to others who have finished similar renovations

    Discuss your renovation project with someone who has experienced it first-hand. In addition to obtaining knowledge and tips on how to complete a successful renovation, you may also learn how to cut costs and budget appropriately for certain projects. For instance, someone who has renovated a master bathroom before should be able to give you tips on where to find good deals on hardware and supplies. In addition to telling you what to do, they should just as easily be able to tell you what not to do when it comes to renovations. Learning from their mistakes could end up saving you a substantial amount of money.

  5. Create a list of specific needs and goals for contractor bids

    After going over your needs and wants, create a clear list of renovation goals to hand to contractors. This will ensure that your bid (or cost estimate for the renovation) is as accurate as possible. Make sure to include both major structural changes to the home and cosmetic changes. Examples of what to include on a kitchen renovation list include demo, new quartz countertops, new custom-made cabinets, painting kitchen cabinets and walls, new subway tile backsplash, ceiling beam installations and new GE appliances. Make sure to include specific brands you plan on using as well. From here, a contractor should be able to give you a much more accurate quote.

  6. Obtain bids from at least three general contractors

    If you’re planning to use a general contractor, we recommend obtaining bids from at least three different contractors. It’s not uncommon for bids to differ wildly. If a contractor is particularly busy or charges a hefty percentage, then you can bet that bid will be higher. According to Angie’s List, most general contractors charge “between 10 to 20 percent of the total cost of the job.” The total cost of the job includes materials, supplies, labor, permits, etc. Be aware of contractors that give you a too-good-to-be-true estimate. For example, if three different contractors tell you that the project will likely cost between $30K and $40K, but one contractor tells you he can do it for $10K, this could be a red flag that the contractor is either lying to you or is inexperienced.

  7. Research materials and sources for the new home

    When budgeting for a home renovation, it’s absolutely crucial that you have some idea about how much everything costs. We recommend spending a substantial amount of time researching your specific renovation needs. From the cost of countertops and appliances to the cost of bathroom vanities and flooring, researching these specifics will allow you to keep an ongoing tally of renovation costs. While you can always research costs online, you should also spend time at your local Home Depot, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Ferguson Showroom and local warehouses where granite, marble and other stone surfaces are sold.

  8. Cut costs where you can

    Of course, cutting unnecessary costs where you can is never a bad idea – especially if you’re on a tight budget. Those unwilling to compromise on quality materials or finishes should look into purchasing gently-used or refurbished items. Your contractor may also be able to find leftover stone slabs from previous projects. Other ways to cut back on renovation costs include purchasing items when they go on sale, hiring subcontractors instead of a general contractor and doing a little DIY work (i.e. painting a room yourself).

How to Begin the Online Home Search

First Steps

You’ve made your first step by visiting Homes.com, a simply smarter way to search for your first or next home!

Now learn a little about the tools we offer and discover more ways to focus in on your ideal home.

Homes.com aims to make your results and experience more personal, to help you set the priorities that are important to you and your home search partner(s)!

Homes.com Innovations For Your Home Search

Homes.com Match

There’s more to finding the perfect home than just matching the right price and number of beds and baths. Our conversational search begins the search experience and easily navigates you to your ideal location, gives you insights into average area pricing, and allows you to intuitively select match criteria that matter to you most. With many match filters offering a “must-have” and “nice-to-have” option and ‘around’ option on pricing, your search results can surface more relevant listings than traditional search filters. To help you assess how close of a match each property comes to your criteria,  each home result has a clearly displayed match score which shows on a scale of 0-100 just how close your match is in meeting your personalized needs.

The search results page allows you to sort by match score, as well as more traditional sort orders (such as price), and our intelligent algorithms help you discover more properties through ‘close matches’ as well as expanding selection by noting limiting match criteria (e.g. “you could see more homes if you made ‘pool’ a nice-to-have”).

Homes.com Match really does offer a smarter search experience, which means you’ll find exactly what you want, and won’t miss out on homes you might like.

How to Find a Contractor When Renovating a Home

Preparing to renovate your home? Whether it’s a small, one-room makeover or an entire overhaul of the property, you’ll likely need an experienced and reputable general contractor. While expensive, these construction professionals provide valuable services to homeowners renovating a home. In all likelihood, homeowners won’t be able to spend all day, every day at the home overseeing the day-to-day operations. That’s where a general contractor comes in. Not only do general contractors oversee every aspect of the renovation from beginning to end, but they also guide homeowners in making practical yet budget-conscious decisions throughout the process. In addition, they handle complicated inspection and permitting requirements by the city.

Not sure how to find a contractor that fits your needs? We can help. Below we’ve rounded up several places to find a reputable general contractor as well as tips on how to narrow down the search and ultimately choose the right contractor for your home renovation.

How to find a contractor that fits your home renovation needs

Where to find a contractor 

  1. Ask your Realtor

    Did you purchase the home using a trusted real estate agent? If so, don’t hesitate to ask your Realtor for contractor suggestions. Most Realtors have a list of home improvement professionals to meet their customers’ real estate needs. For instance, in addition to recommended contractors, your Realtor likely has a list of handymen, plumbers, pool cleaners, etc. It’s also likely that a seasoned and experienced Realtor has worked with contractors in the past – either by selling them homes or selling their flipped homes. If you haven’t yet purchased the home that you plan to renovate, we recommend asking your Realtor to have their recommended contractors come to the house for a walk-through. The contractor may be able to give you a rough estimate of renovation costs, which could help you decide whether or not the home purchase is worth your money.

  2. Word of mouth

    When searching for a general contractor, there’s nothing more helpful than a good or bad recommendation from a trusted friend, family member or neighbor. If the contact had a good experience with the general contractor, you can bet they’ll be singing their praises. However, if the experience was less than favorable, your contact will likely warn you against hiring a certain contractor. Word of mouth recommendations are valuable, so don’t hesitate to reach out to anyone and everyone you know in the area who has undergone a home renovation. You may also want to consider joining Nextdoor.com or local Facebook groups to obtain contractor recommendations from locals.

  3. Search digital marketplaces

    If suggestions from your Realtor and word of mouth recommendations from friends aren’t enough, try searching a digital marketplace that connects homeowners with home improvement contractors. A few websites to explore include Houzz, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List and Porch. These websites provide visitors with a list of local contractors. If the contractor has set up a profile with the site, you’ll likely be able to find information about the company, photos of projects and reviews from clients.

How to narrow down the search

  1. Obtain recommendations and conduct research on local contractors

    Just because a trusted friend vouches for a contractor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence. Make sure you’ve checked to see whether the contractor is properly licensed and insured. Check customer reviews and Better Business Bureau ratings. It’s also a good idea to research how long they’ve been in business, years of experience and projects completed. In addition to reviews available online, we recommend asking the contractor for a list of client references.

  2. Meet with at least three to four general contractors

    Meet face-to-face with at least three to four general contractors before deciding who to hire. This will give you an idea of personality traits and who you jibe with best. It will also give you a chance to complete a walk-through of the project with the contractor. It’s important that the contractor see the home in-person before providing you with an estimate of costs.

  3. Provide a complete list of all renovations and blue prints of the home

    When meeting with the contractor, make sure to provide a full list of all home renovation needs. From changing out door knobs and re-painting rooms to demolishing cabinets and installing flooring, every change (no matter how small) should be included on the renovation list. This will help the contractor put together as accurate a bid as possible.

  4. Compare bids

    Once you receive estimates from several contractors, compare the offerings. Watch out for: 1) the contractor who is extremely expensive. He or she may be very busy and simply trying to price themselves out; and 2) the contractor who is desperate for work. He or she may send you a lowball bid. Unfortunately, this type of bid can be misleading and result in you paying more than expected. Make sure the bids include the cost of labor/subcontractors, the general contractor’s cut (or profit margin), materials, demo and clean-up expenses.

  5. Inquire about their payment schedule

    How does the contractor go about receiving payments for his work? Large projects will usually require a down payment from the homeowners at the beginning and then several subsequent payments as projects are completed. Contractors should have enough money in the bank to pay for subcontractors and materials up-front without having to ask you for money at every turn.

  6. Ask about their communication preferences

    Does the contractor prefer to talk on the phone, text message, send emails or meet in-person? Be sure to ask how they prefer to communicate with their clients. Even if the contractor prefers to communicate by email, it may be a good idea to request weekly on-site meetings to go over goals for the week. These face-to-face meetings will keep you in the loop as decisions get made and projects are completed. 

Who to choose

So you’ve interviewed several contractors, compared bids and narrowed down your search. Now it’s time to choose a general contractor for the job. When selecting your contractor, remember that you’ll be working with this person on a regular basis. That means good communication is key. While you certainly don’t need to be best friends with your contractor, it’s important that you get along and are on the same page about most everything.

When choosing a general contractor, it’s also important to not choose based on their bid alone. Just because one contractor’s bid is considerably lower than another’s doesn’t mean that you should go with the cheapest option. In fact, a lowball, too-good-to-be-true estimate could be an indication that the general contractor is desperate for the job. While price is a consideration, other factors such as quality of work, client reviews and character traits should be top of mind as well. Whatever you do, make sure you’re comfortable with your choice. If none of the contractors interviewed meet your expectations, then start the search over and find new contractors to consider.

10 Improvements to Make Before Selling Your Home

Preparing to sell your home? Whatever you do, don’t list it until it’s ready for prime time. That means fixing broken appliances, cleaning carpets thoroughly, and neutralizing the house with fresh paint and less clutter. Trust us when we say that even a few minor improvements can make a major difference in the eyes of potential buyers. If you’re looking to sell your home quickly and efficiently, we recommend making these 10 improvements before putting your home on the market.

  1. Get rid of the clutter

    Is your home filled with too much stuff? It may be time to say “goodbye” to all that added clutter. Why? Because clutter only makes a home appear smaller (not to mention, disorganized!) and that won’t help sell the house. When buyers walk into your home they should see the potential not the mess. Plus, if they notice scattered toys and junked up closets everywhere, they’ll also be more inclined to think of the house as a “big project” (read: not good!). To declutter your home, try renting a self-storage unit to store your belongings before and during the move. You can also donate items to various second-hand stores, including Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity. For more information on how to declutter and stage your home before a move, check here.

  2. Spruce up your entryway

    Want to make a great first impression? Try sprucing up your entryway so that it appeals to the masses. First, start with a nice area rug or runner by the front door. Make sure to also add a rug pad underneath to avoid having the rug slip out from under you. Other tips for improving your entryway include adding a basket, shoe rack, hooks, framed art or mirror to add character and warmth to your home.

  3. Give your walls a fresh coat of paint

    Chances are good that your walls haven’t been painted since you initially moved in. Before putting your home on the market, I highly recommend having the interior professionally painted. From light grays to creamy beiges, aim for neutral colors throughout the home. Not only will light colored paint make your home appear bigger and brighter, but it will also prevent potential buyers from getting distracted by those bright orange and pink walls.

  4. Replace light fixtures and light bulbs

    Believe it or not, light fixtures can make a big impression on potential home buyers. If your light fixtures are no longer working or are simply outdated, I recommend switching them out for new and improved ones. The reason: dead light bulbs and old-fashioned fixtures will make home buyers assume the house hasn’t been well taken care of. Thanks to various home goods websites, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding neutral and affordable fixtures for your home.

  5. Clean or replace carpets

    If your home has carpets, you’ll need to make sure these are clean before showing your house. This is especially important if those carpets are located in a heavily trafficked area. Dirty pet paws, messy kids and muddy shoes can all wreak havoc on your carpets over the years. Fortunately, carpets are easy to clean. If the carpet only requires a little touch-up, I recommend a thorough vacuum followed by blotting them with stain remover. If the carpets require professional cleaning, you can either hire a company to steam clean the carpet or you can rent a steam cleaner and do it yourself.

  6. Fix loose doorknobs

    Imagine a potential home buyer opening your bedroom door and – oops – the doorknob falls off. Not a good scenario. To prevent this from happening, make sure all of your doorknobs – from your pantry to your closets – are tightened and secure. All you’ll need is a screwdriver and a few extra minutes to make this quick fix.

  7. Do a little landscaping

    Landscaping your yard goes a long way in improving your home’s curb appeal. To step up your landscaping game, I recommend visiting a local nursery. Many times these garden centers offer landscape design services to clients and/or they can assist you with choosing appropriate plants for your outdoor space. If you have a townhome or condo, I suggest adding a few potted plants to your porch, patio or stoop. This is an easy and cost effective way to make your home more inviting to potential buyers.

  8. Clean your grout

    There’s nothing like dirty grout in your shower, bathtub or tile flooring to really turn a potential home buyer off. Not only does your make house appear dirty overall, but it’s also a tad unsanitary. If your grout is just mildly dirty, you can actually clean it yourself with baking soda and water, according to Bob Vila. However, if they need a serious cleaning, I suggest hiring a professional to steam clean (and possibly replace) your grout.

  9. Create a “bonus room”

    Who doesn’t love having a “bonus room” in their home? From a home gym to a playroom, having an added bonus room is a big plus for potential home buyers and will help your house stand out. HGTV notes that “families use bonus rooms differently than empty-nesters and singles,” so be sure to know who you’re aiming to sell the house to before converting a room into a bonus room. Several bonus room ideas include: an office, a kid’s playroom, TV room, gym and game room.

  10. Fix appliances and HVAC systems

    Finally, before showing your home to potential buyers, you’ll need to fix any and all broken appliances and HVAC systems. From your refrigerator to your AC unit, potential buyers expect these systems to be working properly. So unless you happen to be a handyman, I suggest calling your local repairman to properly fix the units. Even if your appliances aren’t broken, it may still be a good idea to seek professional maintenance for all systems in your home before putting it on the market.

Ready to move?

Once your home sells, it’s time to call in the help of a professional moving company. Fortunately, Moving.com’s extensive network of reputable and reliable movers makes it easy to find and book the best moving company for the job. All relocation companies in our network are licensed and insured, so you can rest assured that your move will be in good hands. Best of luck and happy moving!

10 Home Improvement Projects to Accomplish This Summer

Forget lazing by the pool! It’s time to get moving on your summer home improvement projects. From sprucing up the exterior to organizing those warm weather clothes, there are plenty of easy ways to improve your home this season. Below, we’ve included our list of the best summer home improvement projects to accomplish over the next few months. While some repair needs and electrical projects may require the help of a professional, many home improvements can be managed by you and your family alone. So grab your toolkit, cleaning products and gardening gear. Here are 10 home improvement projects to accomplish this summer.

Summer Home Improvement Projects

  1. Upgrade your ceiling fans

    The summer is a great time to ditch those old ceiling fans and invest in well-constructed fixtures. Not only can a high quality fan make your home more energy efficient, but it can also improve the overall air circulation within the house. To find the best breezy fans money can buy, check NYMag’s list of the 9 Best Ceiling Fans on Amazon in 2018.

  2. Clean out your gutters

    Sadly, those summer showers often mean backed up gutters for your home. This can lead to a wide array of water damage – not to mention broken gutters. The best way to avoid these issues is by cleaning out your gutters and downspouts at the beginning of the summer. Before scooping out debris from your gutters, make sure you have a sturdy ladder, a bucket and a proper pair of gloves. After the debris has been removed and placed in the bucket, spray the gutters down with a water hose to eliminate any leaves, bugs or dirt left behind.

  3. Install better window treatments

    Believe it or not, the right window treatments can help keep your house cool during those hot summer months. From blackout curtains to motorized roller shades, there are numerous options to choose from when selecting window treatments. Not only can outfitting your home in window shades cut down on dangerous UV light and blinding glare, but it can also improve the overall look and feel of your home. 

  4. Perform maintenance on your air conditioning unit

    There’s nothing more important in the summertime than a properly running AC unit. So before temps reach their peak, be sure to hire a reputable HVAC pro to inspect and perform routine maintenance on your unit. Also, given that your AC unit will be running more frequently during the summer months, it’s a good idea to replace your home’s air filters at least once every one to two months. Fortunately, you should be able to find AC filters in most sizes at your local hardware store or at The Home Depot.

  5. Power wash your home’s exterior

    After mother nature’s wrath this winter, your home’s exterior could probably use a little TLC. To get your home ready for the summer months, we recommend hiring a professional to power wash the home’s siding, driveway and deck. Not only will this make your house appear brand spanking new and improve your curb appeal, but it will also make your abode a more enjoyable place to kick back and relax this summer. 

  6. Invest in a smart thermostat

    Thanks to a slew of smart home devices, it’s easier than ever to improve your home’s energy efficiency this summer. Start by outfitting your place in the ENERGY STAR certified Nest Learning Thermostat. This thermostat saves its users up to 15 percent on cooling bills and is designed to adapt to your individual temperature preferences. The device costs around $250 and can be found here. For a list of other smart home devices worth purchasing, check these gadgets as well.

  7. Create a gallery wall

    If it’s too hot to venture outdoors this summer, focus on interior improvements instead. One easy and creative way to improve your home is by adding a gallery wall. Whether it’s family photos, colorful artwork or a mix of both, you can easily create a gallery wall from objects you already own. For tips on how to set up a gallery wall on your own, check here.

  8. Clean the windows

    Summertime means longer days and more sunlight. To take full advantage of this sunny season, we highly recommend cleaning your windows on the inside and outside. To clean your windows, use either a multipurpose cleaning spray or the window cleaning product Windex, a clean cloth for wiping and paper towels for drying. Clean windows using circular motion with your hands.

  9. Plant shade trees

    Braving the hot summer heat to plant a few shade trees will be well worth your time, if you’re looking to cut costs on those cooling bills. Shade trees are an easy way to keep the sun off of your house, while also beautifying your property. Popular shade trees include maple trees, oak trees, linden trees, gingko trees and elm trees. Before purchasing these plants, we recommend visiting your local nursery to speak with an expert about the best type of tree for your yard. 

  10. Organize your closets and pantry

    There’s no better time to organize pantry shelves and bedroom closets than the summer time. Start by placing all winter clothes and boots in storage. Summertime clothing may need to be dusted off and dry-cleaned before being hung back in the closet. When cleaning out your pantry, go ahead and eliminate any canned items that are no longer needed or expired. Canned goods that haven’t expired can be donated to your local food bank.

Looking to spruce up your home this summer?

If purging household items is also on your list of home improvement projects this summer, try booking a self-storage unit to temporarily hold all of your unnecessary belongings. Fortunately, it’s easy to locate nearby storage units with Moving.com’s storage finder. All you have to do is type in the zip code or your city and state, and click the ‘find storage’ button. Moving.com will pull quotes from nearby storage unit facilities to compare. You can even sort them by star ratings from other people, their price, distance from your home, and filter by features such as climate control, drive-up access, and 24-hour access.